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London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

Downingtown...
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London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

I've started researching a trip to the UK for 2 weeks in August, 2014, and could use some help figuring out what is feasible. It will be me, my husband, and 13 yr old son. They've never been, and I was there once, 20+ years ago, for 2 weeks. The idea is start in London, for 3.5 days to hit the major tourist attractions. After that, there are several nearby things we would like to see: Windsor and the Harry Potter tour. And then farther out: Avebury, Stonehenge, Bath. And then heading north, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwick Castle, Chatsworth (maybe).

My husband is a MacDonald, so visiting the Isle of Skye, and Scotland, is definitely on the list. I figured we would drive up there. My thought was to do the London things (days 1-4), Windsor/Harry Potter (day 5 - can these be done in 1 day?), and then drive out to Stonehenge and Bath (day 6). Stay somewhere in that region. Then drive up to Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick Castle, and stay somewhere in that region (day 7). Between there and Glasgow, I don't have anything planned. His ancestors lived in Leeds, Scriven(-with-Tentergate), and Knaresborough, so I had thought about visiting there. But a lot has changed in 150 years, so there probably isn't much point. We would need to be (back) in Glasgow by the evening of day 13. And we'll want to spend 2+(?) days on the Isle of Skye. Other than that, we'd like to see Scotland and castles.

Does this seem reasonable? Is driving the best way to go? Any recommendations on places to stop or visit?

Also, any recommendations for B&Bs or hotels would be appreciated. We like having a separate room (either sofa bed in the living room or a separate room), but I'm learning that isn't easy to find. In London, the only (affordable) place I've found is the Parkwood Hotel at £165. And that is still a bit steep.

Thanks,

Carole

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Yorkshire Dales...
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11. Re: London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

I agree about staying in London and then taking the train to Scotland. However, you mention a Yorkshire link to your family (Leeds area (West Yorkshire) and Knaresborough). Therefore a suggestion would be to take the train from London to York (less than 2 hours) and have a couple of days in North Yorkshire.

http://www.visityork.org/

York itself is absolutely beautiful, and also compact so you could walk to see the sites. Then if you wanted to do some ancestor hunting you could hire a car and visit Scriven and Knaresborough. This wouldn't take all day so you could use the opportunity to explore some of the lovely Yorkshire countryside.

http://www.nrm.org.uk/

http://www.yorkcastlemuseum.org.uk

Lots in York for your teenage son including the excellent (and free) National Railway Museum, and the Castle Museum with its prison cells and superb Victorian Street.

Then you could catch the train from York and continue up to Scotland - in parts a beautiful train journey especially when the line hugs the Northumberland coast.

Edited: 16 November 2013, 14:27
Illinois
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12. Re: London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

I agree that York is a really nice place to stay, but I'm not sure you have time to add it in without dropping quite a bit. I guess it may depend on what you want to do in Scotland. I'd probably want a few days in Edinburgh, but that may not be on your list.

Our favorite castles so far were in Wales, but if you're going to have more time in London, there are also some day trips to castles that can be done. We've done Rochester, Canterbury (although the castle there is just ruins and not that much left), and Dover that I can remember off the top of my head (not counting Windsor). The Tower of London is also a castle. I don't think you really have time for Wales on this trip. You could do Cardiff (and maybe Caerphilly) Castle as a day trip from London, but it's a long one. We're doing a Cardiff day trip on our trip in Dec, and I think our train leaves London at 7:30 AM and we get back at 10 or 11 PM.

Fredericksburg, VA
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13. Re: London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

You could always visit Edinburgh Castle while in Scotland! And Eilean Donan on the way to Skye.

We spent 2 days in London this summer, then took the train to Edinburgh, where we also spent 2 days. Then we drove from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye. There are multiple YouTube videos of drives in Scotland, including the A82, to Skye, one of the very scenic drives. So you can get an idea of what the roads and driving conditions look like.

As mentioned, add time to the Google maps drive time estimates. Some of the additional time will be due to driving on the other side of the road, but most of it will be for stopping and taking in the scenery. The folks at the airport rental car desk said it would take about 3.5 hours to drive to Skye from Edinburgh. Maybe if you were familiar with the roads and didn't want to stop. It took us more like 8 hours.

Even though I tend to cram a lot in during a vacation like this, I think you are trying to accomplish a little too much. I would concentrate on London and environs and Scotland. Do your 2 weeks include flight days, or is that 2 solid weeks on the ground? If flight days included, then you're looking at really 12 days. You could spend the first 6 in London, seeing the "London things", Windsor and HP. Then you could train to Glasgow or Edinburgh for a couple of days, then head for Skye for several days. You can actually take the train to/from Skye (you can take 2 different, extremely scenic lines), but renting a car on Skye itself may be expensive. We opted to rent a car from the Edinburgh airport as it was considerably cheaper. But you do need a car to get around on Skye.

Presumably you're looking at flying into London and home from Glasgow, which would make your time stretch a bit farther.

Birmingham, Alabama
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14. Re: London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

I did a similar 13 day trip in July with our boys 13 and 16. We only had time for half of what I wanted to do at this point in the planning :) You just have to get realistic about what you have time (and energy) to do and just plan to return someday. Here are some ideas that may help:

We did 7 nights in London and 6 nights in Scotland. We stayed in London during all days except for 2 day trips, one to Harry Potter and one to Salisbury/Avebury/Stonehenge. In Scotland, we did a short driving circle through the Trossachs (hiked Ben A'an), Oban on the coast (for scotch), through Glencoe, and back through Stirling to Edinburgh for the last 2 days. I really wanted to get to Skye, but just didn't have enough time. Ask on the Scotland forums about timing recommendations - there are lots of locals that helped me with great advice.

First, also look for flats to rent in London in addition to hotels. We found it cheaper than renting 2 hotel rooms. In Scotland, we did B&B's since we were not in the same place for many days at a time. Some B&B have family rooms, some you will need 2 separate rooms. July and August are Scotland school holidays, so good B&Bs do book early.

I highly recommend a private trip with a qualified guide to Avebury Stone Circle in addition to Stonehenge (same day). We took the train to Salisbury and met a tour guide there. Your son (and you too) will enjoy trying out dowsing rods in Avebury, so ask specifically about that. It's a cool experience. I recommend a private guide so you can do what you want, but you may can also find small group tours that offer a similar experience. BOOK EARLY on this one! We found it easier to take the train out of central London instead of having the tour pick us up in town. You could probably find a tour out of Bath as well if that is high on your list (we dropped Bath for time, but I did want to go). This tour was very much worth the cost for us!

Allocate most of the day to Harry Potter Studio - take the train from Euston station to Watford Junction; don't bother with the bus from London; it will constrain you too much on return time. I recommend booking a time as early in the day as you can. Stay as long as you like, catch the next train back to London. They run every 30 mins or so. Have some small activities on the list for when you get back into town.

If your son liked Shakespeare in school, look into the Globe schedule; a Shakespeare comedy is always fun. We saw Midsummer's Night Dream after our youngest had just acted out parts of it in school. He loved it. Buy tickets the day they are released to general public (patrons of the Globe get early access) in January (probably night before in US time zone). The good seats go FAST and offer better viewing than the standing room on the floor.

If you have Doctor Who fans in the family, the last remaining blue police box is just outside the Earl's Court tube stop.

Unless you have real reason to see northern England, take train or fly to Scotland. We took the train to get a good half day rest in the middle of our trip. First class train travel is worth it and doesn't cost too much more if you book early. We flew back from Edinburgh to Heathrow for return trip.

For Scotland, reserve an automatic rental car early. They have them in the summer, but they book up fast. Most of Scottish Highlands is slow driving similar to driving on 2 lane mountains roads in Appalachian Mtns.

If your son is a Monty Python fan, Doune Castle just North of Stirling is where much of the Holy Grail was filmed. They even have coconuts you can borrow in the gift shop.

In Edinburgh, we found the Real Mary King's Close tour entertaining. Edinburgh Castle was impressive, but being the last day, we were all tired of the tourist stuff :)

Most of all, have a great trip! It's fun to plan through I remember it frustrating to keep marking things off your list.

England, United...
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15. Re: London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

Ok, a different take. Go to enjoy London and Bath - to Bristol 30mins, fly Bristol to Edinburgh (1hr EasyJet) enjoy a day there it's just lovely and the sights central, train to Glasgow (40mins) then take the train up the west coast. There is one that goes from Glasgow to Fort William then on to Mallaig where you can take the ferry to Skye. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful rail journeys.

seat61.com/WestHighlandLine.htm#.Uo-77ie7Ri0

Or really relax and do the train London to Fort William then on to Mallaig and ferry to Skye

seat61.com/…20William

I don't have time to find the actual pages but this site gives you a huge amount of info. It also has information about the train from London to Scotland, best way to buy tickets and the Scottish ferries

Edited: 22 November 2013, 20:27
Glasgow
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16. Re: London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

To give you an idea of distance, I live in the South of Scotland and went to Skye this summer and the drive took 8 hours. We were there for 4 days before moving on and wished we had had more time in that area. Driving from where I live to London (which we've done often) takes about 8+ hours.

Downingtown...
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17. Re: London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

Thanks for all the great advice. I think we've come to the realization that trying to do both southern England and northern Scotland in one 2 week trip is just too much. So, sadly, if we do decide to do a trip to the UK, this time it will just be southern England. In which case it would be 4-5 days in London (thanks for the tips about Harry Potter - I'd been assuming we would just do a bus tour, but the train sounds more flexible), and then 4-5 days somewhere near Oxford (probably in Witney) to do day trips to Stonehenge, Blenheim, Cardiff, and whatever else.

I'm definitely taking notes on the Scotland suggestions for a potential future trip there.

Thanks again.

England, United...
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18. Re: London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

Eloracam, definitely do Scotland. The scenery is stunning and the people lovely. A big contrast to the soft countryside of England.

Enjoy your trip.

London, United...
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19. Re: London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

We stayed this year at Keble College Oxford b&b which was basic but functional and well priced, and very hogwarts. Excellent Breakfast In The Great Hall. They do en suite twin rooms, and en suite singles, overlooking the main quad. My teenagers were a bit older than yours but they loved it. Not luxory though, but the real thing. You can go by train,or park and ride. You could go punting and for a country walk on port meadow if you wanted to break up the sightseeing, and after london, this might be nice.

people are being a bit down on driving. Obviously dont drive to scotland though, but generally, its OK.

Stratford -you really have to like Shakespeare. Otherwise its a bit so what in my opinion.

blenheim is not very nice. A bit boring, impersonal, and they sold most of their good stuff. Go to hampton court from london, and maybe another house somewhere else?

I recommend salisbury, which is really beautiful, has a cathedral, wilton is a nice house nearby, and old sarum is interesting, and stonehenge is just there too. it ticks a lot of boxes in only two days. We got a self catering flat which rented by the day in the town centre on the net somewhere.

I think you could do 4 nights london, train to oxford for two nights, hire car to salisbury, stonehenge on the way, two nights, drive heathrow and fly to scotland for four nights - go to inverness and then you are in the highlands.

So yur holiday is london, two cathedral towns, oxford university, Two ancient monuments, the wilds of scotland. You only need castles, and you can pick them up in scotland i guess. I dont know scotland well. i don't think this is rushed at all.

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20. Re: London to Skye - need itinerary advice, please

On the other hand, I really liked Blenheim Palace. I admit that the house was not the most interesting house I've ever been to, but I loved the gardens. If you're interested, you can also walk through the gardens to Churchill's grave in Bladon. It's a nice walk if you get good weather. Somewhere on the Oxford forum I posted the details of the walk, I think. Let me know if you want more info and I can try to find it, but I'd guess it would show up if you searched for Bladon on the Oxford forum.